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Counterterrorism Yearbook 2022

By Katja Theodorakis and Gill Savage

The Road from 9/11

It’s been its been over two decades since the 9/11 attacks when two planes hit the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. Close to 3,000 people died and many others were injured, and even more people were traumatised by the experience and the loss of loved ones. Today’s release of the Counterterrorism (CT) yearbook 2022 coincides with the anniversary of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and the deaths of 174 people. These and other acts of terror have left an indelible mark and shaped the years that followed.

Australia’s overall security environment is increasingly challenging to navigate. Emerging threats such as information operation campaigns, cyberattacks and climate change are increasing the complexity of the world. In 2022, major geopolitical events including Russia’s war on Ukraine and China’s continuing coercive operations and aggression, occupied a significant space in national discourse. Foreign interference and espionage have continued to rise to the forefront of intelligence agencies priorities.

Yet, terrorism prevails as a significant security concern for Australia and the wider region. These continuing challenges mean that ASPI’s 6th edition of the Counterterrorism Yearbook is as important as ever.

ASPI’s Executive Director, Justin Bassi, notes in the preface of this 6th edition of the CT Yearbook, that ‘while terrorism is no longer assessed by ASIO to be our top security threat, it hasn’t disappeared and in fact continues to be one of the predominant security concerns for Australia and the region.’

The 2022 yearbook was co-edited by Katja Theodorakis, head of ASPI’s Counterterrorism, CVE and Resilience program and Gill Savage, an ASPI senior fellow, considers CT challenges through the lens of the world context, today’s challenges and explores wider policy considerations through a range of chapters from 16 expert authors. The yearbook includes chapters on trends in terrorism, precrime policing and extremism, radicalisation of teenagers, strategic competition and CT, public trust, multiculturalism and bioterrorism and resilience.

Theodorakis notes in her introduction that:

‘For most of the past two decades, terrorism and extremism were largely seen as an external issue brought to Australia by foreign problems. Even when talking about ‘homegrown jihadists’, extremist ideological motivations were generally ascribed to global terrorist sources in faraway places.’

The presence of motivated violent extremist groups continues and are increasingly accompanied by issue-specific radicalised individuals. A key aspect of the changing environment is the use of social media by extremist groups to tap into public discord arising from Covid lockdowns and vaccination mandates as well as violence driven by divisive political agendas in democratic countries such as the White House riots in 2020.

Today’s CT environment is an increasingly complex one, the impact of which hasn’t diminished. It represents a challenge that requires governments, community and academia to continue to work together.